Exceptionally low daily energy expenditure in the bamboo-eating giant panda

Yonggang Nie, John R Speakman, Qi Wu, Chenglin Zhang, Yibo Hu, Maohua Xia, Li Yan, Catherine Hambly, Lu Wang, Wei Wei, Jinguo Zhang, Fuwen Wei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

62 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The carnivoran giant panda has a specialized bamboo diet, to which its alimentary tract is poorly adapted. Measurements of daily energy expenditure across five captive and three wild pandas averaged 5.2 megajoules (MJ)/day, only 37.7% of the predicted value (13.8 MJ/day). For the wild pandas, the mean was 6.2 MJ/day, or 45% of the mammalian expectation. Pandas achieve this exceptionally low expenditure in part by reduced sizes of several vital organs and low physical activity. In addition, circulating levels of thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) averaged 46.9 and 64%, respectively, of the levels expected for a eutherian mammal of comparable size. A giant panda-unique mutation in the DUOX2 gene, critical for thyroid hormone synthesis, might explain these low thyroid hormone levels. A combination of morphological, behavioral, physiological, and genetic adaptations, leading to low energy expenditure, likely enables giant pandas to survive on a bamboo diet.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-174
Number of pages4
JournalScience
Volume349
Issue number6244
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2015

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Ursidae
Energy Metabolism
Eating
Thyroxine
Thyroid Hormones
Diet
Behavioral Genetics
Physiological Adaptation
Triiodothyronine
Health Expenditures
Mammals
Mutation
Genes

Keywords

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Body Temperature
  • Cattle
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 15
  • Diet
  • Dogs
  • Eating
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Tract
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Motor Activity
  • NADPH Oxidase
  • Organ Size
  • Sasa
  • Thyroxine
  • Triiodothyronine
  • Ursidae

Cite this

Exceptionally low daily energy expenditure in the bamboo-eating giant panda. / Nie, Yonggang; Speakman, John R; Wu, Qi; Zhang, Chenglin; Hu, Yibo; Xia, Maohua; Yan, Li; Hambly, Catherine; Wang, Lu; Wei, Wei; Zhang, Jinguo; Wei, Fuwen.

In: Science, Vol. 349, No. 6244, 10.07.2015, p. 171-174.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Nie, Y, Speakman, JR, Wu, Q, Zhang, C, Hu, Y, Xia, M, Yan, L, Hambly, C, Wang, L, Wei, W, Zhang, J & Wei, F 2015, 'Exceptionally low daily energy expenditure in the bamboo-eating giant panda', Science, vol. 349, no. 6244, pp. 171-174. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aab2413
Nie, Yonggang ; Speakman, John R ; Wu, Qi ; Zhang, Chenglin ; Hu, Yibo ; Xia, Maohua ; Yan, Li ; Hambly, Catherine ; Wang, Lu ; Wei, Wei ; Zhang, Jinguo ; Wei, Fuwen. / Exceptionally low daily energy expenditure in the bamboo-eating giant panda. In: Science. 2015 ; Vol. 349, No. 6244. pp. 171-174.
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abstract = "The carnivoran giant panda has a specialized bamboo diet, to which its alimentary tract is poorly adapted. Measurements of daily energy expenditure across five captive and three wild pandas averaged 5.2 megajoules (MJ)/day, only 37.7{\%} of the predicted value (13.8 MJ/day). For the wild pandas, the mean was 6.2 MJ/day, or 45{\%} of the mammalian expectation. Pandas achieve this exceptionally low expenditure in part by reduced sizes of several vital organs and low physical activity. In addition, circulating levels of thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) averaged 46.9 and 64{\%}, respectively, of the levels expected for a eutherian mammal of comparable size. A giant panda-unique mutation in the DUOX2 gene, critical for thyroid hormone synthesis, might explain these low thyroid hormone levels. A combination of morphological, behavioral, physiological, and genetic adaptations, leading to low energy expenditure, likely enables giant pandas to survive on a bamboo diet.",
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N1 - Copyright © 2015, American Association for the Advancement of Science. Acknowledgments: We thank X. Wang, Y. Jin, W. Zhou, T. Pu, X. Wang, L. Shan, S. Ma, W. Du, Z. Tan, M. Wang, X. Zheng, H. Han, D. Wang, and T. Ma for help with the data collection and P. Thompson for technical assistance with the isotope analysis. We also thank the Foping Nature Reserve and Beijing Zoo for their assistance on this study. This work was supported jointly and equally by the Key Project of National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant 31230011) and the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (grant XDB13030000). The thermal image camera used for the dairy cow images was on loan from the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council equipment loan pool. The physiological and other data are presented in the supplementary materials. The genetic data have been deposited in the National Center for Biotechnology Information database with accession number KT000656.

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N2 - The carnivoran giant panda has a specialized bamboo diet, to which its alimentary tract is poorly adapted. Measurements of daily energy expenditure across five captive and three wild pandas averaged 5.2 megajoules (MJ)/day, only 37.7% of the predicted value (13.8 MJ/day). For the wild pandas, the mean was 6.2 MJ/day, or 45% of the mammalian expectation. Pandas achieve this exceptionally low expenditure in part by reduced sizes of several vital organs and low physical activity. In addition, circulating levels of thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) averaged 46.9 and 64%, respectively, of the levels expected for a eutherian mammal of comparable size. A giant panda-unique mutation in the DUOX2 gene, critical for thyroid hormone synthesis, might explain these low thyroid hormone levels. A combination of morphological, behavioral, physiological, and genetic adaptations, leading to low energy expenditure, likely enables giant pandas to survive on a bamboo diet.

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